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GI Blues
– See the new Elvis!-
(Part 9)

By Mariusz Ogieglo

Cafe Europa

While Elvis was still collecting material for the soundtrack, shooting for his new film had been going on for several days at the Paramount Pictures studios. The first slap on the set of the comedy “GIBlues” took place on Monday, May 2, 1960.

Work on the film lasted less than eight weeks, and although Elvis had to divide this time between visits to the recording studio, appearances in front of the camera and numerous meetings, it went extremely smoothly. In a conversation with The New York Times journalist Murray Schumach, director Norman Taurog even stated that the recipe for successful cooperation with an artist such as Elvis Presley is, above all, ” liking music and enjoying working with young people .” Speaking about Presley himself, Taurog also spoke only in superlatives. ” There’s not a bit of stiffness in this boy ,” he complimented the singer. “ He’s the most relaxed guy you could ask for. Reminds me of Crosby and Como . He’s a good listener, and when you have a good listener, you also have a good actor .”

However, the extremely tight schedule did not prevent Presley from deepening and pursuing his own passions, which included karate (in 1960, Elvis was awarded a black belt).

Therefore, just a week after filming began, on Thursday, May 12, he took part in Ed Parker’s martial arts show organized at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. A karate instructor gaining more and more recognition in Hollywood (he trained, among others, film stuntmen), an actor (he appeared in several parts of the cult series of films about the adventures of Inspector Clouseau), but above all, the creator of the American Kenpo Karate style. An American type of martial art based on Japanese and Okinawan martial arts such as judo and karate. ” In 1960, I was doing a show for a group of doctors at the Beverly Wilshire Health Club when he (Elvis) heard about it and came into the audience ,” Parker recalled of his first meeting with Presley in Black Belt magazine in 1985. ” After it was over, he came up to me and said, ‘Well, I don’t think you know me, but my name is Elvis Presley.’ He was very embarrassed. He added: ‘You are very innovative,’ and then explained that he had studied martial arts during his military service in Germany. ‘I see you are a rebel in your field. I am one too,’ he said .

One of Parker’s students at the time, Al Tracy, remembered the meeting in a similar way. ” Elvis first met Ed Parker in 1960 at a show at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel ,” he wrote on his website. “ Both my brother Jim and I were in his (Ed’s note) demonstration group at the time and we were both brown belts at the time. During the show, I was breaking the boards with my fists and Ed was breaking them with his feet. I remember exactly what a humble and modest person Elvis was. He walked up to Ed and introduced himself as Elvis Presley. As if the whole world didn’t know who he was. This was the beginning of his friendship with Ed Parker, which lasted until his death on August 16, 1977 .

In the 1970s, Ed Parker joined Elvis’ circle of associates and served as his bodyguard. However, as Parker repeatedly emphasized in his interviews, he never made it onto his payroll. ” I was a security assistant ,” he explained in Black Belt magazine. ” I’m telling you this so you know that I was never his employee. That’s why he could talk to me like he was his father. He told me about his problems and one day he even said that ‘you are like a second father to me’ .

The meeting with Ed Parker was not the only noteworthy meeting that took place during the filming of the comedy “GIBlues”. It is worth noting that three royal families visited the film set at that time!

The first to arrive at Paramount studios was the royal couple from Nepal (photo at top). According to various sources, King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, who has been on the throne since 1955, and his wife, Queen Ratna, paid for the opportunity to spend a few hours in the film studio and see Elvis at work.

According to Walter Ames from The Los Angeles Times, the ruler of Nepal admitted in a conversation with journalists that he previously knew Presley only from his albums and films. ” ‘So is he one of your favorite artists?’ asked the reporter. ‘Yes,’ the king replied diplomatically, which made Elvis visibly beam .

According to Walter Ames’ account, the Nepalese royal couple visited Elvis on the day the “Frankfort Special” scene was filmed (May 10, 1960). ” Events then moved to the set of the movie GIBlues, where Elvis was filming a scene in which he sang a song in a German railway car ,” wrote the journalist in an article published in The Los Angeles Times on May 11, 1960. ” Elvis, who looked resplendent in his tailored uniform, left the set to meet with the Nepali leader .”

At this point, it would be worth stopping for a moment at the famous scene in the train compartment mentioned above. All the more so because the backstage of its creation was described in quite detail in the book included in the “Cafe Europa” (MRS) set, by Ray Walker, a member of The Jordanaires quartet. ” We worked on the set of the Paramount movie in the scene with the song ‘Frankfort Special ,'” said the singer. Elvis lined us up and asked me to sit next to him. The stage consisted of four walls and resembled a compartment or a cabin on a train. We sang along to a pre-recorded track in one corner. Later, the crew would dismantle one of the walls and replace it with another one for the next shot. And we did all the same thing again. The travel scene, previously filmed in Germany, played on the screen next to us. We’ve never been to Germany .”

According to Walker, who sings bass, the above scene was very realistic, and everyone present had a great time.

  • We’re talking about Bing Crosby and Perry Como

Article written and provided by Mariusz Ogieglo, EP Promised Land (Poland)

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